By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After losing three key seniors to graduation – and the college ranks – the Carl Junction boys soccer team will once again lean on its senior class in 2019.
The Bulldogs return six seniors with varsity experience, and another three or four seniors without it.
“So we’re senior loaded, not with all the experience that we want but we have quite a few seniors this year,” head coach Ed Miller said.
Carl Junction must replace seniors Isaiah Durman and Riley Kunce, both first team all-district picks and all-conference selections, as well as Andrew Doyle, the team captain. Doyle has signed with Ozark Christian College and Durman with Ottawa University in Kansas.
The team’s returning experience is sprinkled around the field, starting with goalkeeper Dalton Carey, a senior who started all season last year and saw some playing time as a sophomore. Noah Carpenter also returns, as does Couper Manning, who played in the back last season but could move around this year as Miller tries to capitalize on his skill and speed. Camryn Simon returns after playing some club ball in Springfield, and Luke Helm returns to the starting lineup as well. He’ll play a big role on the defensive side. Zane Corbin will probably play up top but could also move around and enters in better shape after an ACL tear prior to last season. Mason Cooper will return as a center back.
“This group of seniors has been around since most of them were freshmen and we’re looking to capitalize on that with this nice little group that’s played together for several years,” Miller said. “Hoping we can use that experience to improve our record from last year and make a run at a district title.”
The Bulldogs fell to 5-15-2 last season, their second-straight losing year after combining for 30 wins in 2015 and 2016.
Simon was the team’s leading scorer last season but Miller also wants some other players to step up offensively.
“We need to replace some goals and look to be more offensive-minded as well,” Miller said. “Last year we kept some games tight we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net so we’re looking for ways to find the back of the net this year and separate from teams instead of letting them stick around.”
The Bulldogs also figure to get contributions from players like junior Cade Wilkerson, who started last year; junior Jose Figueroa, who played in the back last year but could move around and serve as a playmaker; and junior Nick Neal, who possesses a lot of speed.
“I think our success is going to rely on one, coming together as a team and understanding our roles in the team and number two is committing to our formation, to our shape and being consistent throughout the whole game instead of just for periods at a time,” Miller said.
Carl Junction opens the season with road games at Joplin and Parkview on Sept. 3 and 5. The Bulldogs host Monett on Sept. 9. They will play in the Laker Soccer Shootout and Joplin Invitational in October.